The two Bears exchanged another glance. “You think Emma would do it?” Ryan shifted next to Glory, boxing her in. She glowered up at him.

“I don’t know her well enough to say.” They’d only met the petite Curana the other day, but her power was undeniable. Bunny didn’t think Emma would do something she’d been specifically asked not to, but with an Alpha female, you could never tell.

“Yeah. Ryan, stay here, help Glory clean up. I’ll get Cyn and Tabby back here in one piece.” He held up his finger, stopping Glory’s automatic protest. “Do this, please. It will ease Tabby’s mind to know that someone is watching over you.”

She snapped her mouth closed. Her sigh sounded so put-upon, he almost laughed. “Fine. The furball can stay.”

“Gee, thanks.” Ryan rolled his eyes. “Take care of them. I’ll call Mom and Dad and let them know what’s going on.”

Bunny waved and headed out, leaving the cooling pizzas on a stool. He hoped Glory was hungry. He had the feeling he wouldn’t be back before they’d turned stone-cold.

“C’mon, Cyn. You know Julian is going to turn you. Can’t you just wait?”

Cyn turned on her. They were only half a block from Wallflowers, the curio shop Emma co-owned with her Beta, Becky. It was the closest she’d been able to park.

“Do you know why I’m not sitting around waiting for him?”

Tabby bit her lip. No, she didn’t, but now that Cyn was talking, she wasn’t going to interrupt her and risk her shutting up. Cyn rarely talked about why she did things, she just did them.

“My mom always waited for my dad. Always. To the point where she didn’t fucking sneeze without his say-so. She let him make all the decisions, run her life for her. And after he died, she was fucking lost . She could barely function without him there.”

“Cyn. How do you think I’d feel if I lost Alex?”

“Maybe. I’d be able to function if I survived. I know I can take care of myself. I’ve proven that.”

“What do you mean, if you survived it?”

Tabby winced. “Most mates don’t survive the death of their partner.”

“Duh. That’s what mates are, Cyn. We’re two halves of a whole. If half your body died, if half your heart stopped beating, what would happen to you?”

Cyn’s jaw snapped shut. She looked freaked out. “Huh. Maybe this whole mating thing isn’t such a hot idea.”

“And maybe this is exactly why Julian chose to wait. You need to be certain it’s what you want before you tie your life force to him.”

Cyn stepped closer, lowering her voice. “You wanted this? You wanted your life tied to someone else’s?”

Tabby nodded. “It’s the most incredible feeling I’ve ever had. I’d gladly do it all over again if it meant I get to keep Alex.” She put her hand on Cyn’s arm. “He’s my home, Cyn.”

“Whoa.” Cyn’s shocked expression faded. She knew exactly how much home meant to Tabby. “So if he left Halle?”

“I’d be on the back of his bike, after I got a very good reason for the move out of him.” Tabby grinned. “Mate doesn’t mean doormat, Cyn.”

She nodded slowly. “I’ll have to think about this.” She took a step back and turned on her heel. “But I’m still talking to Emma.”

Tabby groaned. “C’mon, Cyn. Alex was bringing pizza, damn it!” Her stomach rumbled. She was starving .

Cyn laughed and opened the door to Wallflowers.

“Good afternoon, ladies. How can I help you?” Becky Holt rose from the Victorian, cream-colored sofa with a smile. This was the first time Tabby had been in Wallflowers and she looked around with interest.

Wallflowers was a business that catered to people who enjoyed hand-crafted, artisan-made pieces. The eccentric store carried hand-carved cuckoo clocks, paintings, old-fashioned mirrors, masks, plaques…anything that could be used to decorate a wall. An antique rug covered the distressed hardwood floors. A small Victorian sofa covered in soft cream brocade graced the center of the floor. A Queen Anne coffee table in rich cherry wood sat before it, bearing a silver tea service. Two matching chairs in that same cream fabric faced the sofa, creating an inviting little conversation group. Against one wall was a gas fireplace with an ornately carved mantelpiece, where black-and-white and sepia photos were displayed in silver frames. A cherry and glass counter, as Victorian as they could make it and still have it be functional, graced one wall, with an antique cash register.

Emma and Becky had created an atmosphere of a bygone era, and the shop was warm and inviting. A fire crackled merrily in the fireplace on this cool September afternoon, the light glinting off lovely cherry-wood wainscoting. Rich rose floral wallpaper warmed the walls above it. It was very feminine, and both women obviously loved it. Tabby could see herself spending time here, enveloped in the welcome Emma and Becky exuded to everyone who entered.

“I’m here to talk to Emma. Is she here?” Cyn cocked her hip and flipped her dark hair behind her. To anyone who didn’t know her, she looked singularly unimpressed, but Tabby had seen the way her dark eyes gleamed at the sight of that beautiful cherry-wood counter.

Becky’s smile wavered as she stared at Cyn’s battered face. Her eyes narrowed.

“Nothing. I just want to talk to her about a bite. I’m Cyn Reyes. I own Living Art Tattoos.”

The two women stared at one another for a moment before Becky sighed. “Is this about the problems with Gary or the fact that you’re mated to one of the Bears?”

She turned to Tabby when Cyn’s jaw dropped. “What’s his name?”

“Julian,” Tabby supplied. She ignored Cyn’s glare, smiling at the Beta. Her Beta, now that Max had accepted her into the Pride.

“Huh. Simon mentioned something about that.” Becky tapped her teeth with her nail. “And I think Emma said something about leaving that up to your mate.”

Cyn shifted and her lips tightened. That Latina temper was getting the better of her again.

Becky laughed. “Hey, if it were up to me, you’d have the right to choose. I didn’t get that right and neither did Emma.”